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Babylon Town abandons plan to rezone 109 acres in East Farmingdale

A rendering of a mixed-use development that could

A rendering of a mixed-use development that could have been built near the intersection of Route 110 and Conklin Street if zoning code revisions had been approved. Credit: Dover, Kohl & Partners

Babylon Town is abandoning a nearly decadelong plan to rezone a large swath of East Farmingdale’s Route 110 corridor for redevelopment.

The rezoning for the area near Route 110 and Conklin Street could have created 109 acres of dense, mixed-use buildings potentially rising more than 60-feet high and containing nearly 2,700 apartments.  

“Based on the input we had gotten from members of the public, from the stakeholders in East Farmingdale, we felt it was best to just scrap it,” Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said Monday. “We just felt it was too much.”

The project was tied to MTA plans to reopen the Republic Long Island Rail Road station, as well as Suffolk County's potential “bus rapid transit” system for Route 110.  

The idea to redevelop the area started with a 2005 vision plan, which called for about 41 acres of new mixed-use development. The scope grew from there, and in2010 the town commissioned a transit-oriented development report exploring potential use of 120 acres.

With this most recent effort, which began building steam in 2016, civic leaders and local residents voiced loud opposition to the rezoning and in July, Schaffer announced a delay in the plan so the town could receive more community input.

Then on Sept. 26, the town board voted to take “no further action to pursue the rezoning of properties” in the area. The resolution further stated that “large scale residential development and the potential associated traffic volumes . . . is incongruous with existing light industrial uses and the existing airport use” in the area.

The town isn’t ruling out development in the area. Now, however, it will instead look at projects on a “parcel by parcel basis,” so that the town board can have more control of them, Schaffer said.

The town used $100,000 in federal grant money for the 2010 study and $700,000 in state grants for the more recent work. The town has paid $110,000 from its own coffers.

Civic leaders said they learned of the board vote only last week, after asking town leaders about starting meetings to further discuss the project.

“I’m so relieved,” said Nancy Cypser, a trustee of the Woodland Civic Association in East Farmingdale. Cypser said Monday that the consulting firm hired to use the past reports and come up with the “form-based code” — a type of zoning focused on aesthetics and an overall vision of a community — had not incorporated the negative feedback on building height and density from community meetings held in early 2017.

Schaffer, too, was critical of the firm, Florida-based Dover, Kohl & Partners.

“I think that they should have paid greater attention to the details of the initial vision plan,” he said, emphasizing community comments. He added that the firm — which, along with subsidiaries, was paid $400,000 by the town using a state grant — did produce work that could still be used for future proposals.  

Victor Dover, founding principal of the firm, said on Monday that as a facilitator of the community meetings, “I know for a fact the engaged citizens were listened to very, very closely.”

He said the firm reduced story heights and the overall acreage based on the feedback, but that the company was not “hired to be mere secretaries to the crowd.” He said he stood by the firm’s work, which combined “everything usable that we heard from the engaged citizens, and economic reality, and the facts on the ground.”

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